The good news: ski season is in full swing. The bad news: according to a recent survey conducted by ABTA – the UK’s largest travel association – nearly three in ten Brits who take ski holidays have admitted that they never check that their travel insurance includes ski injuries. And the older you are, the more likely you are to take to the slopes without proper coverage, meaning that thousands of people are taking a colossal risk this winter.
Obviously, it makes sense to get properly covered, but even if you are it makes even more sense to ensure you don’t get injured in the first place, particularly in the knee area. Here are a few tips on that score…
How skiing can do your knee in
Although skiing is seen by the outside world as a dangerous sport, injury rates have decreased dramatically, due to equipment advances. However, as with any pursuit that puts you in an unnatural position for prolonged amounts of time, the risk of knee injury can be high – be it from an accident or from simple overuse or poor technique.
The most common strain skiers can put on themselves is anterior knee pain – at the front of the knee – and the most common incidence is patella-femoral joint dysfunction, which results in pain, clicking and stiffness, particularly when going up hills or stairs due to the inner part of the quads becoming less active, resulting in the kneecap rubbing against the bone.
Here’s our tips on how to avoid Skier’s Knee this ski season
- Hone your knee position
Incorrect knee alignment while skiing can put excessive stress on the joints and lead to anterior knee pain, so it’s important to get into good practice. Get into a skiing position, and bend your knees as you would on the slope. The correct position involves placing your kneecap over your middle toe. Once you’re locked into that alignment, do 30 to 40 gentle bends of the knee, and do this three or four times a day until it becomes your natural skiing position.
- Don’t ‘sit down’ on the slopes
It’s all too easy to get locked into an over-squatting position while skiing, where you look as if you’re practically sitting down on an invisible stool. This puts massive amounts of strain on the knee joint – and makes it difficult for the quads to absorb the shocks the legs endure while going downhill. To prevent this, start to beef up your glutes with deep squats – but ensure the weight is moving into the front of the feet and not straight down or backwards.
- Check the snow quality
If it’s too hard-packed or icy, it’ll be harder for your ski edges to grip and result in more painful falls. If it’s too soft, the sticky and/or slushy surface can prevent the bindings from releasing when you need them to, and you run a greater risk of injuries from slow turns. Remember that snow quality can dramatically fluctuate during the course of the day, and ensure you react to those changes as and when they happen.
- Check your bindings
Bindings – the device which connect the boot to the ski, which automatically release when you fall or collide – have dramatically reduced ankle and lower leg injuries. But when used incorrectly, usually when they’re set too tight, they’re a ski knee injury waiting to happen, particularly amongst inexperienced skiers who fall when travelling at a speed too low from them to release.
- Avoid drinking and skiing
Remember that certain countries always breathalyse injured skiers when they’re admitted to hospital, and a positive result could affect your claim, so be aware of your off-piste intake.